Just recently, US Airlines were left embarrassed when an employee responded to a customer with a cryptic tweet – an image of a woman and a very strategically placed toy airplane.  Understandably, this social media marketing error horrified the world and the image went viral.  In addition, the airline’s bizarre apology was retweeted over 12,000 times.

The PR failure from this ill-advised US Airlines post served as a reminder of the power of social media and how it can cause devastating damage to a company’s brand.

Here are the six lessons to learn from this PR plane crash, and other social media disasters:

6 Lessons to Learn From Social Media PR Disasters

Select your admins carefully.  A CEO will generally not have enough time to tweet regularly, and therefore will delegate the task to a junior employee.  If you’re in this position, choose just one or two admins to manage your accounts, and review their online posting habits on their personal accounts before you hand over the reins.

If it’s borderline offensive, it’s offensive.  Earlier this year, Kenneth Cole made a judgement call on Twitter that was slammed by the public when the fashion powerhouse piggybacked off the #Cairo devastation to announce their spring line.  Some were entertained, most were offended - it’s always better to avoid bad taste.

Remove invalid admins immediately.  As soon as an employee’s posting privileges have been revoked – for whatever reason – remove them and update the password immediately.  This practice should be built in to your exit interview process.

Do research.  Recently, Valentino posted an Instagram picture of Amy Adams, advertising how good she looked sporting their new handbag.  The only drawback was, it was taken at Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s funeral.  The public accused the Italian organization of insensitivity when in actuality, they claimed it was a genuine oversight; they’d posted the photo without validating its source.  Always triple check where your images and words originated if you haven’t generated them yourself.

Consult your employees.  Every business must have a detailed social media policy covering everything from swearing to style, and whoever has access to these channels should review this document and sign it.

Use the appropriate tools.  Micromanaging is burdensome, and is not in the culture of Marketing Eye. However, ensuring the right messages are delivered to our 25,000+ social media followers is extremely important.  HootSuite allows you to pre-load tweets for approval at a later date.  If you don’t manage your own account, make time every day to scan the posts made on your behalf to avoid a potentially hazardous situation.

How do you prevent social media PR disasters in your business?  Have you managed a marketing blooper?  We’d love to hear from you on Twitter or on Facebook.

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Anna James

Anna James is an experienced, doggedly determined journalist with a passion for business and creative PR. Starting out in publishing, Anna loves putting together a good story and has written across a multitude of genres and styles for a varied audience. A former sports reporter, Anna shifted her focus to entrepreneurial blogging and regularly contributes to Entrepreneur Magazine and Bigcommerce. Launching her freelance writing company in 2013, Anna has worked for Woman’s Day, Fox Sports, NSW Parliament, FilmInk Magazine, xoJane and several other publications.

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